I had lunch at the Baron’s Manor Pub recently. It’s a heritage house at the corner of 96th Avenue and 192nd Street in Port Kells, converted to a pub in 2005, and the new owners have given it a museum-like quality by filling it with old photos, newspaper articles and artifacts from one of its early owners, the Baron von Mackensen.
It’s the 60th anniversary of the Mr. and Mrs. P.A. Woodward’s Foundation, and it’s my guess that unless you’re part of the medical community, you’ve never heard of it. It’s an amazing charitable organization with a mandate to improve the health of British Columbians, and gives away over a million dollars a year to do just that.
As a journalist it always fascinates me where my colleagues find their passions. For me it’s how people connect with their houses, for Tom Hawthorn it’s their deaths. And, while some of the people featured in Deadlines: obits of memorable British Columbians are well known, most often it’s the ordinary life that’s the quirkiest and most colourful.
Bernie Smith once told me this great story for At Home with History, about busting Strathcona bootlegger Wally “Blondie” Wallace in the 1940s. Blondie was a neighbourhood hero, dodging the cops by night and teaching local kids to box in the basement of his house during the day. He operated a thriving bootlegging business from his house at 446 Union Street.
In honour of Women’s History Month–but mainly because I profiled five men last week–I’ve chosen five women who have put their stamp on BC in unique ways. There is more information about them in At Home with History, Sensational Victoria and Sensational Vancouver, and in the books listed below.
Alvo von Alvensleben not only has a name you couldn’t make up, he’s one of the most fascinating characters in BC’s history. For some mysterious reason he has never rated a biography, but there is a chapter dedicated to him in my book At Home with History. I was just browsing my bookshelf and thinking what an interesting bunch of men and women BC has produced.
Harry Houdini (1874-1926)
A few years ago Bruce McIntyre Watson was checking the Vancouver Historical Society’s info line and found an enquiry from the president of the Lions Club in Diggers Rest, an outer suburb of Melbourne.
He was looking for the plane that Harry Houdini flew in 1910—in what some believe was Australia’s first successful flight, and wondered if it had made its way to Vancouver.